North Carolina politicians received more than $500,000 in campaign contributions from pro-gambling and pro-marijuana stakeholders in the first half of 2023, according to a report newly compiled by Bob Hall, a campaign finance analyst in that state.
It’s not unusual that gambling lobbyists attempt to assert political influence, especially with sports betting and regulated casino gambling both being legal business enterprises in dozens of U.S. states. Lobbyists from other industries do the same, although other industries weren’t the subject of Hall’s report.
Hall himself seems strongly opposed to gambling expansion in the state, based on his comments in the report. He has been an activist and researcher involved for decades in North Carolina campaign finance and government ethics issues.
“All the old reasons about addiction, crime, social decay and victimizing the poor are suddenly no longer very important,” Hall said in the report. “It’s now all about the money – the money received and the money to be gained.”
Who received notable donations?
Hall’s personal feelings aside, the report adds detail about donations received from lobbyists by lawmakers. For example, Rep. Jason Saine’s $42,200 in contributions from lobbyists in the gambling and cannabis industries was tops among North Carolina’s state lawmakers.
Saine played a critical role in the recent legalization of online sports betting in North Carolina by helping usher a bill through the House of Representatives. He’s also been involved in recent discussions related to retail casino expansion in the state. Saine and Sen. Phil Berger both received donations from The Cordish Companies, a Baltimore-based firm involved in gaming and entertainment projects in multiple states, according to previous reporting by Carolina Public Press.
Sen. Jim Perry, who also helped with the state’s legalization of mobile sports wagering, received just over $25,000 from gambling and cannabis donors, Hall reported. Some of Perry’s donations are from casino companies.
North Carolina currently allows retail sports betting, with mobile sports betting options to go live in 2024. There’s also discussion among legislators about allowing retail casinos in addition to those currently operated by tribes. Some lobbyists also hope online casino legalization could become a topic of future discussion.
Hall’s review of the North Carolina Secretary of State’s records found that “38 gambling-related businesses and associations – including 29 based outside North Carolina – are paying 71 different lobbyists to promote their agenda this year to 170 state legislators.”
The list of gambling-related entities paying lobbyists to help with wagering expansion in the Tar Heel State isn’t surprising. BetMGM, Caesars Entertainment, DraftKings, FanDuel, Fanatics, PENN Entertainment, and Underdog Fantasy are among the companies to pay lobbyists in North Carolina.
North Carolina’s mobile sports betting industry will allow for up to 12 mobile operators. Licenses haven’t been granted yet, but it’s expected that major industry players like DraftKings and FanDuel will be among the mobile sportsbooks to operate in the state.
Several of those companies also have online casino products and could be market entrants should casino apps eventually be legalized. Stakeholders with video poker terminal companies were also among those who have donated to North Carolina’s elected officials in 2023.
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